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Full text of "ModernGermanLiterature18801950"

THE  NOVEL  OF   IMPRESSIONISM                  301

summumjus* summa injuria. Arnold Ansorge, an innocent country
youth, is horrified by a legal crime committed against a Jew, goes
to Vienna (der Moloch• =die Grossstadf] to seek a righting of the
wrong (the influence of Kleist's Michael Kohlbaas manifests itself
here as also in Caspar Hauser and Der7allMauri%ius\ but is himself
contaminated by the miasmic life of the city, and in hopeless self-
contempt shoots himself. Alexander inSabylon (1905) has something
of the exotic splendour and the rich Oriental colouring and sensa-
tionalism of Flaubert's Salammbo, but the theme is essentially that
of the medieval epic of Alexander: even the mightiest conqueror
must depart from his conquests, and have his mouth stopped with
dust. What is the use of life, the sulphur-faced young king asks, if
I cannot keep it ? Of all Wassermann's novels Caspar Hattser oder
die Tragheit des Herons (1908) is that into which he has put most
clearly the perhaps naive religious teaching which was so dear to
his heart. The events narrated are historical; and, though Wasser-
mann has interpreted them with obstinate wilfulness and obses-
sional bitterness, he has changed them but little in details. In the
summer of 1828 a boy appeared in the streets of Nuremberg who
could neither walk nor speak. His story, Wassermann says, has all
the elements of an ancient myth: he is like an inhabitant of another
planet straying into this world as if by miracle. A contemporary
jurist wrote a treatise, An "Example of a Crime against a Human'Being,
to prove that Caspar was a legitimate prince of the house of Baden.
The key to the mystery, as provided by the novel, would be that
the morganatic wife of the Grand Duke of Baden had done away
with her husband's son by his consort, a stepdaughter of Napoleon;
whether with her knowledge or not, the boy had been kept im-
mured in a dark tower and suddenly released by his jailer; and as
soon as opportunity offered the reigning dynasty caused him to
be assassinated. This prince imprisoned from birth in a dark tower
and thrust out into the light of day at maturity is a theme familiar
in German literature from the translations of Calderon's La vida
es sueno\ it was to be used again by Hofinannsthal in Der Twm.
Wassermann uses the story as a ready-made exemplification of his
faith in pure humanity: Arnold Ansorge in Der Moloch had been
such an innocent depraved by contact with wickedness, but he
had had some conception of human depravity, whereas Caspar
Hauser has the utter innocence of a new-born babe. The problem
then is: is it possible for a grown-up person to be as morally white